Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Finding Baby Leif in a 1976 Super 8 Movie

Hiding within old super 8 silent movies and old videos from the 1980s and 1990s are probably dozens if not hundreds of images of Leif and the rest of us. Seldom seen, as we don't project them and haven't digitized them, they are an almost unknown mine of treasure.

I recently purchased an old movie projector to be sure I can project, and hopefully someday digitize, those old movies, though heaven knows when that will happen. Since the thrift shop where I purchased the projector didn't know for sure how well it worked since they didn't have any film to project, I had to at least try it out.

The film I pulled out was from the spring of 1976. Leif was just a year old. As I projected it on a wall, I snapped this photo with my digital camera. It's hard to imagine just how little real information is in a still as small as 8 mm, and how grainy it is when blown up, but you can still see what a beautiful baby he was.

I think this was probably Easter dinner, and both boys were in it, Peter very animated, Leif rather bewildered and sweet. How I wish those old films had the sound to go with them so we could have heard the action, too.

I hope that in the new year I'll have a chance to look at the old films and find more "photos" of my family.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Leif Playing Soccer as a High School Freshman

I wonder how many new photos of Leif I will find as the years go by. This past week, I opened a trunk filled with old home movies on reels and Leif's high school yearbooks were in it as well. I've looked through the ones from Puerto Rico, and Northwood Junior High, but somehow hadn't really looked at Highland Park High School and Manhattan High School.

Leif wasn't in a lot of activities and didn't have a lot of photos in the yearbooks. He was involved with music (playing and constructing electric guitars) out of school, but he always played soccer, from the time he was just a little tyke until he was a junior in high school, and the only reason he stopped then was because when we moved to Puerto Rico and he went out for the team, initially he couldn't run in the high heat and dense humidity and sprained his ankle. It was a shame. He missed playing, and he was really good.

So, finding this photo of him as a high school freshman in the 1990 Highland Park High School yearbook was a treat. It shows him jumping up to head butt a soccer ball during one of their  games. I wish it were a video, because it's hard to imagine him jumping so high in such a straight posture, but there he is.

I don't know exactly when the picture was taken, only that it was his freshman year in the 1990 yearbook. The ball almost looks like a moon in the sky.

Monday, October 20, 2014

I Dreamed of Leif Last Night

We so seldom remember our dreams. I wonder how many times I dream about Leif. When I woke up this morning, I had been dreaming about Leif. In my dream, he was eating cookies and drinking milk, and he was wearing the blue sweater he is wearing in this photo with his dad. It was so clear, and there was more to the dream than that, but all I could keep in my memory was the darling little toddler with the cookies and milk. I wish I'd have more dreams of him to remember.

This photo was taken by Leif's beloved Aunt Lannay when we lived in Charlottesville, Virginia in 1977. He was two years old. 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Leif and a Canadian Cannon

Here's Leif in Canada, August 1989, age 14, already six feet tall, wearing his snappy gray outfit with his Member's Only jacket. I think this was taken in Quebec City, but unfortunately, the slide wasn't labeled.

He always loved guns of any kind, climbed on every cannon he saw from the time he was very small. I wonder, now, how many he clambered around. He was curious about how the mechanisms worked, and from a very young age could figure out how machinery operated.

He had a quick mind for anything mechanical and could figure out how to fix things. When he died, for an apartment dweller, he had an amazingly good collection of tools. He worked on his cars and his motorcycles, and on some of our cars, too.

It's too bad that we don't foster all the kinds of intelligence there are in this world. We seem to think academic learning is the only way to go, and often don't understand or respect other kinds of intelligence and talents that don't require "book learning." I think someone like Leif might have been a lot happier if he hadn't thought it necessary to go to college, but could have found another path to use his mind. He was certainly not averse to learning . . . but he liked things like the real-time collaboration he found in online games requiring strategic thinking, the hands-on use of skills and mechanical understanding, the mental repartee of ideas he seldom found in classes (with a few outstanding exceptions).

He would have made a good Viking. His name fit him.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Leif in Quebec City, Canada in August 1989

 For so long, I thought I'd never see any "new" photos of Leif. Now I am blessed with many of them! In scanning the slides we took back when taking colored slides was a popular means of photography, we've discovered many photos of Leif we didn't remember and hadn't seen since they were taken and developed. We only printed a few when we took them, so this is like finding a treasure.

These photos were taken in Quebec City, and Leif was, as he often did, acting silly. He found a way to wrap his feet around the railing on the stone wall and look as though he were falling off without actually doing it.

We had a great trip through eastern Canada with Leif, and he enjoyed seeing the cities and experiencing French Canada. He was 14 years old, but already over 6'1" tall. You can see he liked to dress well, with his nice slacks, dress shirt, purple tie and Members Only jacket. Those were his choices, not forced on him by his parents. And of course, snazzy sunglasses.

I'm so glad we got to take him on that trip. I wish Peter A. could have been with us, but he was already away from home at the Air Force Academy.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Where is the compassion for Robin Williams?

This is Leif at the age of 16, in his room in our house at Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico, with the guitar that he designed and made.

His initial time in Puerto Rico was difficult, as he was initially not accepted by the kids at Antilles High School, and was attacked by one group of guys and beaten up. But he overcame that and found a group of good friends and a place in the school. The years in Puerto Rico became some of the best ones of his life. Although he was sometimes angry and frustrated, he was also creative, had friends, enjoyed the sea and guitar lessons. He had hope. The future looked bright. He had every reason to think life would treat him reasonably well . . . and so did we.

It was in some ways unfortunate that we had to leave Puerto Rico the summer between his junior and senior years of high school. It's tough to go to a new school as a senior, hard to fit in, hard to make friends, especially for an introvert like Leif. Yet staying in Puerto Rico would have offered him less opportunity, and he would have had to return to the USA for college anyway.

All that aside, there was no hint in these days that he would ever be seriously depressed or suicidal. There were times, as there are for all of us, when he wasn't happy, but he found much to enjoy in life and went out to meet it with open arms.

Robin Williams' suicide this week has opened a bigger public dialogue about suicide than we have seen before, it seems to me. I think it is because it's so hard for people to believe that a man who could act so funny, so silly, so seemingly full of the enjoyment of life, could be so deeply depressed that he would take his own life. It's because he was so much a part of our lives that we all feel the loss, unlike with many others who have taken the same course of action.

I've seen so many comments on Facebook, discussions, sadness, even anger, misunderstandings, blame. Some people can't understand how someone who was rich and "had everything" could be unhappy. Why didn't he just "walk away"? Some can't fathom how he could do that to his wife and children, and think his act was cowardly and selfish. Some people who have struggled with depression can't figure out why Williams' couldn't tough it out like they have. Some have no sympathy for him, only for his family members left behind.

I understand where they are coming from, but depression is no respecter of wealth or position. Nor does someone like Williams do it "to" his family . . . more likely, he was just trying to escape his own deep misery and felt he had tried everything and failed. More likely he was in such a deep hole of hopelessness that he felt he had failed his family and they would be better off without him, if he was even able to consider them at the end.

None of us will ever know the depth of his struggle, how hard he fought to escape depression and addiction. Most of us will never know what it's like to feel so terrible that we try drugs and alcohol to "self-medicate" in an attempt to either feel better, or feel SOMETHING. My father said he felt "dead inside" for the two years before he took his life. Leif listened to a Johnny Cash song that said he hurt himself to see if he could still feel, not long before Leif took his life.

I think it's time we learned to be less judgmental and more compassionate, less angry and more understanding. Some people will be able to fight depression. Some will not. Just as some people can fight other illnesses and either be cured or manage the illness for a long time. Other people find no effective cure or die younger from the same disease. It's time we recognize that mental illness is as much an illness as a physical illness, and just as devastating. It's time to stop blaming those who suffer.

It's also time to have compassion for those left behind, those who every day of their lives will wonder if there's something they could have done to save their loved ones; those who will wonder every day of their lives what put them over the edge? The eternal question of "why" will haunt them. They will not only grieve as we all grieve when we lose a loved one, they will be tormented by questions that will remain unanswered.

So my hope is that all those who are blaming Williams for "taking the easy way out" or "taking the coward's way out," or for being "selfish," will keep their compassion for his family and extend it to him. We have not walked in his shoes.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Leif Clearing Out Fallen Coconut Palm Fronds in Puerto Rico

Here are two photos I had never seen before that I found among my mother's slides. I know why I never saw them. They are not in good focus, probably because she took them through the dining room window.

However, they are a treasure to me because I can see my "Tarzan son" the way he looked in high school in Puerto Rico when he was out in our large "rainforest" back yard helping to clear out coconut palm fronds, coconuts that fell (dangerous!), and mow the spongy lawn.

He was so slender in those days, with a terrific figure and long hair.

He used a machete out in the yard to cut things, and one time I looked out and he had used the machete to whack off the end of a coconut, had the big heavy coconut stuck on the tip of the machete, and was pouring the coconut water into his mouth that way. I wish I had a video of it.

Leif didn't like yard work and would have preferred never to do any, but he helped out in our postage stamp sized yard at Fort Sheridan, Illinois, whether mowing or shoveling snow, and then in our yard in Puerto Rico, where it was incredibly hot and humid, and then again in Kansas, at our old stone house and the one we purchased for Peter's mother, and finally our yard in Florida. I can't say he ever did it willingly (at least not getting started) but once he got started, he worked and got the job done.

When I think of him doing yard work, these pictures are what comes to my mind, that tall, slender young man who was strong as an ox and worked to help us in so many places.

These photos were taken by my mother in April 1991. Leif was 16 years old.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Mail That Keeps Coming and the Photos I Have Never Seen Before

Recently I read an article by a man whose son died, in which he wrote about how his son lived on in the world of junk mail. His son was dead, but mail continued to arrive for him, months later. He said he saved the mail, as though his son might somehow be coming back for it.

I understood exactly how he felt and what he did. Even over six years after Leif's death we still get mail addressed to him, although the amount of it is lessening. The latest piece was another ad from Mazda, offering him a great deal on a new car.

I don't save the junk mail, and personal mail was never really an issue, since Leif had little use for paper correspondence, preferring to do everything he could online. After he died, I had plenty of mail about him, taking care of his affairs, but only junk mail addressed to him, and I didn't keep any of that.

It still arrives, as though he were still here to receive it. I wonder how long these mailing lists go on and on when there is no response.

It used to hurt when I saw his name on an envelope. It was yet another reminder that my son was no longer with us. Now, it's more an annoyance that they won't quit.

There's still so much of him everywhere around us, so much of the way we live that we owe in some measure to him. I sit here at my computer desk, which he and his dad put together for me, using a computer that was once his.

A couple of days ago as I was driving home, I was thinking that I would never see a new photo of Leif, or have a new story about his life to tell, unless someone who knew him came forward with them, and then, just a day later, someone did.

My mother has been an avid photographer most of her life. Her vision is no longer good enough to use her camera, and she is confined to a wheelchair, but last week she started going through her thousands and thousands of slides. I brought home a couple of the big boxes of them to give her a start. There was a big plastic box labeled "family" and some dates that went through 1993. I decided to peek inside and found a few that she took when we lived in Puerto Rico . . . and there were some slides of Leif I had never seen before. Mom only printed the very best of the photos she took, so I'm sure there are many that none of us have ever seen. I won't know whether these are good shots of Leif until I scan them, but I will treasure any new photos of him I get.

The one with this blog was one of Leif's many selfies. It was taken March 11, 2008 in his apartment, less than a month before he died. I wonder about his photography. When he was in middle school and high school, he photographed architecture and objects. When he was in college and the army, he didn't take many photos, probably because of the expense in those days when he had to buy 35mm film and pay to have it processed, but he did take some of his wife Nikko and their friends, and of his deployment to Bosnia. During that period, he didn't take selfies. But when he returned home from the army, single, he seemed to only take photos of his vehicles and himself, the only real exception being the woman he wanted to marry. After she left him, it was only vehicles and selfies.

At the time he took this picture, he was in love again, and he had photos of her, but he hadn't taken them. He asked for a camera for his last birthday, but never used it for anything but his vehicles. It seems to me that is a sign of how disconnected he was from other people. To my knowledge, he never took a photo of us, his parents, or of his brother's family when they were here to visit, except some silly cell phone videos with his nieces.

Not everyone is an avid photographer, so not taking pictures in and of itself isn't so strange, but to take ONLY the ones he did seems telling to me, a sad comment that he felt no need to take photos of people in his life, but did take photos of himself. Why?  

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Even in Istanbul - Memories of a Young Boy and Cars

If I had taken Leif to Istanbul when he was any age from three to twelve, or any other city in the world, and he had seen this display, we would not have been able to move him from the spot. How he loved little metal car models. He had a HUGE collection of Matchbox cars, which he loved to examine, play with, and compare. As an adult, he still had his metal black Lamborghini model.

I took this picture of the outside display at a store behind the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. I couldn't help but think of him and wish he'd been there so I could tease him a bit about it . . . and watching him pick up various cars and start his usual long dissertations about their various merits.

I can picture him as a child surrounded on the floor by all his cars . . . and planes . . . and ships . . . and space ships. I remember his Hot Wheels sets and speedways. How that boy loved vehicles of all kinds.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Coming Home Brings Memories Again

We recently returned home from a lengthy trip. We thought about Leif every day while we were gone, but when I'm traveling, I don't miss him so much. I think that's because when I'm out of our home environment, I don't EXPECT him to be there, so it's "all right." When I come home, I'm reminded of all the things he did, all the things in our home that we have because of him, all his visits, the places he went.

Yesterday I had to go to an appointment near the area in Tampa where he lived. I passed by the CVS I'd been to with him, the VA hospital I took him to, the university he attended. I had a momentary urge to drive by his apartment, realizing, though, how silly that was. There is nothing of him or anything of his there. The oddest moment came when I had to make a U-turn on a busy street and a young man on a yellow Suzuki crotch rocket pulled up right behind me. I almost did a double take. I couldn't help but wonder whether it was Leif's stolen bike.

Not so long ago I was in Michael's crafts store and as I walked to the bead isle to find some things for Peter, I passed the shelves full of plastic model kits. I had to take a picture, because if I had ever taken Leif to a Michael's as a child, this would have been his favorite place. He LOVED building models. Car models. Airplane models. Ship models. He started doing it very young, when he was quite capable of figuring out how they went together, but not as good at using the glue so it didn't show. He would get so upset with himself for making a mess of the glue.

On the drive home from the appointment, I kept thinking about how I rarely write on this blog any more. It's because I don't want to keep saying the same things . . . though here I go doing it . . . and I realized there will never be any new memories of Leif to recount, though perhaps I'll be lucky enough to discover something someday that will trigger one I haven't already written about. I'll never have any new photos of him to post, unless someone else who knew him ever sends me some I haven't seen.

It wasn't as hard coming home this time because I had my sister Lannay here to distract me. My usual melancholy for Leif didn't arrive until after she left and I started seeing things like the motorcycle rider and thinking of Leif when I couldn't sleep at night.

There will always be things to remind me of him wherever I go, but home is where I miss him most.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The car he would have loved!

Today we saw a car Leif would have loved, appreciated, dreamed of driving. The only thing which would have made it better would have been a yellow instead of orange paint job. No doubt he would have preferred to avoid the ticket these two guys appear to be getting, but even that probably would have been worth it to him if it meant he got to drive it.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Hand-me-down Gadgetry

So many thoughts have gone through my head in the days since I last wrote on Leif's blog. Memories of the day of his Memorial Service in inurnment on April 29th six years ago, thoughts of another Mother's Day coming without him in my life, thoughts of him riding his motorcycle when I see some other young man riding his, thoughts of all my inherited technology over the years.

I was the benefactor of many a piece of Leif's cast off technology when he moved on to something better, newer, "cooler," like his Treo, like this MDA phone. It was pretty sophisticated in its day, with it's slide-out keypad and many Windows functions. He gave it to me when he got a new phone (of course), but I was never able to use it because it didn't get a signal in our dense concrete house. I should have sold it long ago. It still works, but who would want it a 2005 or 2006 phone now?

I think about all of the things I learned from him about technical gadgetry, and how many I learned to use when he bestowed his castoffs on me. He could have probably sold them on ebay, but though he was perpetually in need of money, he was never ambitious enough to learn to sell his no-longer-need-goodies, and so those he didn't give to me ended up stuffed in a box or drawer. This isn't the only cast off phone of his I still have. And who am I to talk, now that I've had them sitting around my house for six years I never sold them (or used them), either?

Some of his replaced-by-newer gadgets he sold to us or other family members, but not others as far as I know. He sold his dad a Mac Mini years ago, and his grandmother a Gateway computer (which has since bit the dust).

I wonder what he'd be using now, if he were still here to spend his time checking out the latest electronic gadgets. He was an early adopter of the iPhone, so I'm sure he'd be either finding some way to get his hands on an iPhone 5 or a Samsung Galaxy 5, and no doubt he'd either have or covet and iPad Air.

What I miss is talking with him about all that stuff, learning something new, finding out his opinions. I can read about it online. I can see it in the stores, but it's nothing like listening to him hold forth with enthusiasm.

Hand-me-down phones and computers; I was lucky to have them. They may have been secondhand, but they were better than I would have paid for myself.

Ah, Leif, thanks for all the fun.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

It Means a Lot!

Today we received a card from my sister, Sherie. It means so much to me that she is thinking of us, and that she remembers this day, this week, and knows how much we miss our son.

Six years ago today we got up at 7:30 a.m. and got ready to go to Tampa to Leif's apartment to try to find out what had happened to him. It was with a mixture of hope, dread and fear that we left home. The best I could hope for was that he either was at home feeling ill or too depressed to communicate, but it seemed unlikely. We both knew that if we got to his apartment complex and both his vehicles were there, it most likely meant he was at home . . . but in what state?

They were both there. His door was locked and there was no response. We went to the manager's office, explained the situation, and asked if they could let us in. I'm grateful that the woman we talked to was sympathetic and willing to do so, and that she respectfully waited outside after she unlocked the door.

That was the saddest and most horrible day of my life, of our lives, and I hope there will never be another even close to it.

Peter said today that at least today we didn't find anything gruesome or horrifying. Yes. It was a beautiful day, full of ordinary work, with the anticipation of seeing Marcus and Darlene tomorrow.

Leif was and is on our minds. He always will be. We will miss him every day for the rest of our lives.

Thank you to my sisters for remembering these days and remembering Leif.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Six Years Ago Today

Six years ago today, our beloved son Leif died. On this day, April 9th, we did not yet know he had taken his life. We were trying to get in touch with him, trying not to worry that we were getting no response, trying not to think the worst. We were more worried than usual (after all, he didn't always answer his phone or text messages) because his supervisor had called us as the emergency contacts because Leif hadn't shown up for work.

We should have gone right then to find him, though it wouldn't have helped him any. We would have just known a day sooner, just had one less day of hoping he was all right, and one less day of trying to find out without embarrassing him by showing up.

We will never know exactly what time he died, but probably sometime between 2:30 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. the morning of April 9, 2008. We can place it at that point because his friend Michael was with him until about 2:30 a.m. He was emailing several of us earlier that evening. And, he didn't show up for work the next morning. We'll never know whether he never went to bed, or did so briefly and got up for work and decided to end it all instead.

The days leading up the the anniversary of his death are always hard for me. Remembering his death, finding his body, those are hard memories.

The years seem to fly by, six already, but it doesn't seem like six years since we heard his voice, his laugh, talked with him. He's still such a part of our lives.

I think few people remember the date. I don't think that's unusual. How many people's death dates do you remember? I remember three very clearly, and probably because they were all people close to me, and I was either with them when they died, or found them, as we did Leif. So, I don't expect people to say anything to us about this sad anniversary. Even if they remember, people probably worry about saying anything, making us feel sad . . . because the tears do come. But I would far rather have them remember that he lived, and died, than not remember or mention him at all.

I was touched deeply again this year, when my sister Lannay and her husband Doug again sent us a  beautiful bouquet of flowers, a card, and an ecard. Lannay always remembers. It means a lot that she remembers the day, that she remembers Leif, that she loves him.

Today's date is not on Leif's death certificate. It says "April 10 found." There's not even a statement of when he might have died. We pieced together as much as we will ever know.

The flower are beautiful. I appreciate them so much.

I will never stop wanting him back.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Falling Down on the Job

Peter tells me that I'm falling down on the job because I haven't written anything on this blog for so long. The days go by, and I think of it, and I think of Leif, and then I wonder what I can say. What is there new to say? Maybe one day I will remember some new stories about his life. Maybe one day I will have a new insight about his life and death. Maybe one day I will feel differently and have that to share. Maybe one day I will find a new photos I can post.

But those days have not arrived. So, what do I post then?

I looked through a stack of photos of Leif that my mother had, among a large box of loose photos I have sorted to return to those in them. The ones of Leif were all either those we had given to her or some she took and had provided copies of, so I found nothing new there.

One reason I haven't posted anything in the last few months except on his birthday is that I was taking care of my mother during her latest bought with another fractured vertebra and rehab. It's only during this week that I've managed to begin to catch up with all I didn't get done in the past two-and-a-half months.

Leif is never far from my thoughts, and often he completely occupies them. It still hurts so deeply that he is gone. I don't want to accept that it's true that I will never see him again.

I look up from my computer at the collage of photos of his life that Darlene made for us back in April 2008, and even in that limited number of photos I see so many aspects of his life, so many experiences. I look at the pictures I've posted on this blog and see a rich tapestry of experience. Maybe that's why living alone, with no one to love, just going daily to a job he hated, being broke from one paycheck to another, was so hard for him to live with. Life had not been like that when he was a child and a young man with us. While he never had a lot of spending money and wasn't allowed to get expensive clothes and shoes, while he never had the incredible amounts of toys kids today seem to have, he did have a life rich in experience and grounded in love. Perhaps as an adult, alone, he was like a starving, thirsting man in a cage.

I tried to find a photo of him I hadn't posted already, and I think this one hasn't been on the blog before. It was taken at the Hase Kannon Temple, or Hase-dera, in Kamakura, Japan around 1980 when Leif was about five years old. He's eating some kind of treat, and looks so sweet and calm.

That particular temple is a very poignant one. Well known for its 30 foot tall statue of Kannon, the temple grounds are full of small statues of Jizo, some with toys or tiny pieces of clothing like crocheted caps or rattles, and nearly all with red collars. These are placed all over the steep sides of the area by parents who are mourning children they lost to miscarriage, stillbirth or abortion. At the time we lived in Japan, it was difficult to find anything written in English about these statues and why they were there, but I was told by my Japanese friends. According to Wikipedia, there are estimates that "some 50,000 Jizo statues have been placed at Hase-dera since WWII." Apparently, they are removed after about a year to make room for more. I don't know what happens to the ones that are removed.

In our culture, we don't seem to have any such formal way to mourn the loss of an infant that never had a chance to live. The custom seems at once poignant and kind and yet inexpressibly sad.

Leif, of course, had no idea what all those little statues surrounding him were for. He was just enjoying the outing to some of the great temples of Kamakura with us that day. We went by train, something he always enjoyed.

He was tall for his age, but so innocent and vulnerable, though I don't think any of us realized it because of his strength and his quiet way of holding himself in.

It seems somehow appropriate and sad that I have this photo of him at that temple. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Leif's 39th Birthday

Thirty-nine years ago I first held Leif in my arms, a big, strong baby, who was a far more beautiful child than this picture shows . . . but I have so few of me and my baby son.

Thirty-nine years ago, this was such a happy day. Our Leif Ashley was born at Irwin Army Hospital, Fort Riley, Kansas.

How I wish he were here with us to celebrate his birthday. Every birthday since his death has been hard for me, glad to remember the joy of his coming into the world, so very hard to realize that his life ended at 33, and these birthdays do not mark another year older, do not bring a celebration, do not see him blowing out candles or opening a present. Hard to realize he will never do those things again.

This is his sixth birthday since his death. Some five years ago, I decided what I wanted to do for his birthday was to do something he would have enjoyed, in his honor, to make the day worthwhile, to seize the life we have and remember him.

And although Peter W. would prefer not to go there, as it is a sad reminder, I would like to visit Bay Pines Cemetery on Leif's birthday. I've wanted to just go there and sit and think or read, and just be.

And, I wanted time to look at photos and savor memories, remember the thirty-three years of his life, his laugh, his smile, his bear hugs, his rascally eyes.

My plans to do any of these things have mostly come to naught. Several of them have been spent taking care of my mother's medical needs. Like today; I spent a total of 12 hours either with her or taking care of things for her. Then I still had to take care of things at home. Now I'm exhausted and it's nearly midnight, and I haven't had any time to spend with my Leif.

It may sound foolish to say I want to spend time with him, but even though I know it's one-sided, even though I know he isn't there, I want to spend the time thinking of him, remembering him. It feels wrong and hurts my heart that I can't take that day "with" him . . . at least in my heart.

I'd like to wish him a Happy Birthday, though he is not here to celebrate it with me. I'd like to wish that somewhere, he is happy, though I do not really believe he is still a part of the universe in any discreet and personal sense.

I would not want my grief and the way I miss him to make him unhappy or sad. He had enough of that in his short life. I would want him to be happy, to laugh, to smile, to find the joy he lost.

Happy 39th birthday, my son.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

"Think of Me"

I tried to post on New Years Eve from my iPad but somehow, the Blogger app would not upload the post. I wanted to post something on Leif's favorite holiday. We were together with his brother, niece, nephew and sister-in-law, and it would have been so good to have him with us, too.

We came back to Florida and I was busy with my mother's medical needs after a fall, busy enough that I didn't get to try the post again for over a week . . . and then it happened.

I went to chorus rehearsal and we got our new music for the spring concert. I was delighted to see that it was all wonderful songs from Broadway musicals.

Then the director told us to take out "Think of Me" from "Phantom." I got choked up immediately. I love that song, but we had it played at Leif's memorial service, and the words will always make me think of him and how much I miss him. I attempted to sing it, but I couldn't get more than a few notes out. I finally just had to put the music in my lap and sit there dabbing at tears while my friend Chris hugged me. I simply couldn't sing.

We went on to other songs and returned to "Think of Me" at the end of rehearsal. By that time I had pulled myself together enough to sing it.

This is such a good example of how we never know how something is going to affect us, or when grief will come unexpectedly flooding back. Most of the time I can talk about Leif without crying, but I can never predict when something will trigger sadness and tears.

It's hard to realize that his birthday is coming up and he won't be here, hard to realize in April he will have been gone from us for six years. I'm still using his computers. His wallet is still here, untouched except for his military ID that I turned in. My mind knows he's gone forever. My heart will never let go.
This photo was a selfie Leif took on New Years Eve 2002.